New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) changed the city’s Chinese coronavirus vaccine mandate for all city workers by eliminating the testing option and threatening to place them on unpaid leave if they do not comply by October 29.
City workers will receive a $500 incentive payment if they receive at least one dose at a city-run vaccination site before the 5 p.m. on the day of the deadline. Any workers who do not comply will be placed on unpaid leave until they are able to show proof of receiving at least one shot, according to a statement released by de Blasio on Wednesday.
“The voluntary phase was very long,” de Blasio said Wednesday on MSNBC. “Now we’re saying we need you to do this.”
The order, which Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi will formally sign on Wednesday, applies to approximately 160,500 City workers. According to the city, 71 percent of workers affected by the mandate have already received at least one vaccine dose — meaning 46,545 unvaccinated workers stand to lose their income if they refuse the jab.
In his statement, de Blasio called serving the people of New York City a “privilege,” and said that “privilege” comes with a “responsibility to keep yourself and your community safe.” Notably, many city and essential workers were on the ground during the height of the pandemic, serving the city before Chinese coronavirus vaccines were even available. According to NYC Health, nearly 66 percent of residents are now fully vaccinated, which is higher than the national average of 57 percent recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We have led the way against COVID-19 – from fighting for the right to vaccinate frontline workers, to providing nation-leading incentives, to creating the Key to NYC mandate,” he said. “As we continue our recovery for all of us, city workers have been a daily inspiration. Now is the time for them to show their city the path out of this pandemic once and for all.”
According to the statement, the city will begin “impact bargaining” with affected unions.
Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York (PBA) President Patrick J. Lynch already released a statement threatening legal action against the city in response to the mandate.
“From the beginning of the de Blasio administration’s haphazard vaccine rollout, we have fought to make the vaccine available to every member who chooses it, while also protecting their right to make that personal medical decision in consultation with their own doctor,” Lynch said. “Now that the city has moved to unilaterally impose a mandate, we will proceed with legal action to protect our members’ rights.”
NYC police and firefighters, who have reportedly resisted the mandate more than other government workers, are included in the new requirement. According to the city, Department of Corrections employees are also included, though they have until December 1 to comply, “as the City works diligently to address the ongoing staffing situation on Rikers Island.” Inmates have “seized near total control over entire units” at Rikers Island jail, according to reports.
The city also bragged about its vaccination rates for healthcare workers and educators, who are subject to the mandate.
“Department of Education (DOE) and New York City Health and Hospitals (H+H) workers have been subject to vaccination mandates since late September; today, vaccination rates at DOE and H+H are 96% and 95%, respectively,” the statement reads.
The city did not mention that thousands of healthcare workers and teachers have been fired or placed on unpaid leave as a result of New York’s vaccine mandate, potentially boosting the appearance of vaccination rates.